Being an Immigrant in today’s America

What does it mean to be an immigrant in today’s America? As an immigrant, I know I have never looked over my shoulder as much as I have in the past year or so. In spite of immigrating to America a month before 9/11, I felt safe and welcomed. As a brown person in America, I felt secure. I had instances when someone told me how lucky I was to be in California because I would not be safe elsewhere. This conversation happened as I asked someone in a bus stop what that bird was. He answered “sea gull” and offered words of warning on being brown in America post 9/11. Did I fear for myself or my family- No, because I felt safe. This was a one off situation that I could care less for.

Fast forward to sixteen years later, a green card and sixteen years on the American soil- I never thought I would be looking over my shoulder as much as I do now. I never thought I would witness the current state of affairs here. With every terrorist attack or every gun massacre, I sit on the edge of my seat praying and hoping that person was not an immigrant. Why? because I am scared that would create a new law banishing immigrants, a new travel ban or a new immigration policy. In spite of being a green card holder, I feel less secure than I felt walking the streets with a visa stamp on my passport as an American Alien.

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I was air-kissed in college!

It was my first semester at San Jose State University, California and my sixth month on the American soil. I was meeting one of my classmates at the library to help her with her Math. I walked into the library and saw her stand at the elevator. She greeted me with a hug. As we hugged I hear her make kissing sounds. I clearly did not feel the kisses on my cheek. I looked back wondering who those kisses were intended for. I did not see anyone behind me. I pretended to know exactly what transpired but I was confused.

I met her few days later again and the kissing happened again. It was around the time when Paris Hilton was all over the television with her “It’s Hot” line. As I was watching Entertainment Network, I saw Paris Hilton “air kiss” another celebrity. I had my Ah-ha moment at that instant. I had been air kissed! Did I blush…absolutely not! In fact I spent hours pondering why anyone who had no associations with Hollywood decided to air kiss.

B**ch, stop touching my child!

I have gray hair on my head. The wrinkles on my face show the years I have on me. I have been called several things in my life, wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher and bitch. I was in my early 50’s and had been in America for few years at this point. I was living in Oakland, California with my four daughters. I did not drive a car so the only way I could go anywhere was by taking the bus. I took the bus every time I had to go somewhere. I was getting off the bus with several other people when I saw a child coming close to our bus. I had four children of my own. I touched the child’s head to steer her in the other direction. I was a mother and I would hope someone would steer my child if they were coming close to the bus. The child’s mother did not see it that way. She charged at me and started yelling at me, “Bitch, stop touching my child”. I was shocked because back in Afghanistan and Pakistan every child was like your child and you tried to protect them or guide them. You felt a sense of responsibility for a child, period. I tried to explain to her that I was trying to steer her child away from the bus and did not intend any harm. The mother eventually calmed down and apologized to me. I was in a state of shock for few days after that episode. I never thought at 50+ that I would be called a bitch and would be seen as a threat to a child.

I thought all of America was like New York City!

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When Ana traveled from Azores, Portugal to California in America, she thought she was going to live in a city like New York City. Azores or the islands as she calls is surrounded by water, green landscapes and is a fishing town. Like most islands, the lifestyle is extremely relaxing. I asked Ana how she came to America and her first few days here:

I don’t remember when I came here. Maybe it was the 80’s but it has been a long time. I am bad with dates. My future husband visited Portugal and we met there. He petitioned for me so I came here to get married to him. My family was back home in Azores, Portugal. I was the only one who moved to America. I wasn’t scared to come here to live with him. My grandmother, father, mother had already visited America at different times before me. We had a rich uncle who brought my grandmother, father and mother at different times to visit America. I had an idea about America and there were lots of pictures. I have cousins and uncles in Canada and Boston area, but my immediate family is back in Azores. I thought all of America was like New York, busy all the time. I landed in San Francisco and when they drove me out of the airport I was like oh my God, this is so big. When I landed in Boston before reaching San Francisco and I saw freeways, I thought it was so big. We did not have freeways in Azores. We had one way streets. I saw lots of difference between Azores and America. I thought we were going to live in a city like New York. I thought all of America would be like New York.  I did not know where he lived. When we drove into Milpitas, I wasn’t impressed by any of it. I was surprised at how the houses were built especially the shingles on the roof bothered me a lot. I came into a Portuguese family so the food was not an issue. The first time I went out was for coffee. I thought I was going for espresso but when I saw a big mug of coffee, I was like what is this. They said its American coffee. I said what is the difference between American coffee and Portuguese coffee. Back in Portugal, our coffee came in small cups like shots of espresso. I had never drank so much coffee before. I loved the food here from the very first day. The people were very polite and laughing all the time here. People back home were rude back then but now they are getting better. The weather is so good in California. I love it over here and don’t want to go back. But I miss my family and ocean a lot. I remember I used to open the window and I could see the ocean in Azores. I miss that view.”


The story of Immigrants in America- America Deconstructed!

As I was brainstorming ideas on what my first blog post ought to be, the creative person in me wanted to find an appropriate definition for immigrants in America. I found some cool ones which had the perfect  definition on who an immigrant is- someone who left their country for another one. I also found ones where immigrants were portrayed as damsels in distress who were lured from their home countries into America. While that definition makes America seem like a predator lurking around the corner, we weren’t lured into America. We came here on our own terms because America was the land of opportunities. I say we because I am an immigrant who was lured into America by her parents. I grew up in India until I turned seventeen when I finally moved to America or California to be precise. California is the epitome of the melting pot culture that America stands for. Yet, even people in California have their preconceived notions about immigrants. I have been mistaken to have been born in America because I speak good English. I have been asked if I took a shower on the street in India because CNN or BBC decided to show slums in India as India to the world. I am not the only one who has had to battle these misconceptions. Most immigrants irrespective of their race, ethnicity, color of their skin have had to battle these misconceptions. Thus was born America Deconstructed the book and America Deconstructed blog.


America Deconstructed began as a conversation between two friends who joked about the misconceptions they faced as immigrants. Those college conversations took shape into a book years later. For the book we interviewed sixteen immigrants and have written about their journey into America and the life that followed. There are confusing coffee shop runs, to go or take out, Taliban, war, marriage, kids and even death. The book covers the human side of immigration and is filled with funny, embarrassing situations, humor, heartbreak and tears. We do not care about laws and policies. We care about the human experience behind immigration. America Deconstructed blog follows the same format of quirky cultural differences. If you want a light hearted, fun blog filled with loads of quirkiness to brighten your day or night, follow us. We strive to satisfy!